You know what I am thankful for?
That no one is making me do a hackneyed "This is what I'm thankful for in Fantasy"-type column.
There's lots of stuff I hate about things I see in other fantasy columns and this is one of the biggest. I hate obvious, trite premises. I hate the "Fantasy All-Stars" column at the halfway point of any season. Yeah, thanks genius. Without this I wouldn't have known Tom Brady is having a good year. I hate bad impressions of me (you may have just heard of me, but I've been writing for almost a decade now on one site or another). I hate unoriginality, I hate safe writing with no personality, I hate writing that wavers back and forth or uses words like "might" or "possibly."
Speaking of things that other people hate, Mike from Philly has one.
Mike (Philly): When are you and the rest of the ESPN fantasy experts going to stop referencing the "percentage of standard leagues where Player X is still available"? You have to realize how meaningless a stat that is, considering the percentage of leagues that people join just so they can do practice drafts/pass time at work. I ask that you either stop using this stat all together, or start prefacing it with the statement "I know this stat is useless because X percent of ESPN standard leagues haven't had a roster transaction since Week 1, but I have to quote it anyway." It would be interesting to see the percentage of managers within ESPN standard leagues that have not made any roster adjustments post-draft or post-Week 1. Thanks, and keep up the good work.
TMR: I understand the criticism. And sometimes even I'm, like, really? Ron Dayne is still available in more than 75 percent of leagues? And I feel stupid saying it on air because I know in almost all competitive leagues, he's gone.
But here's what you need to know about that stat:
We know that a lot of folks will draft a team and then drop out. We've tried to alleviate that with our free Mock Draft Lobby that we have where you can jump in and practice at any time during the preseason. And I feel very safe in saying that we have the least amount of dead teams and more competitive owners than any of our competition. That's not an official stat, but I do speak with the voice of experience.
That said, it happens. And I specifically joined a public, anyone-can-join ESPN free standard league, just to see what the experience was like. I've always just played with friends previously. And we have one dead owner, but nine others are making moves.
And Saturday, I went to the free-agent pool and lo and behold: Chester Taylor was still there. Picked him up, started him, won. So if Chester Taylor was out there on a Saturday in a league where nine folks have made lineup changes or free-agent pickups within the past two weeks, it's not as crazy a stat as you think.
The point is that it's a fine line. I'm here to give advice for those who play ESPN Fantasy and in our most popular version of the game (10 teams, two running backs, two wide receivers and a RB/WR flex) there are often "obvious guys" available in a lot of leagues, since they are reasonably shallow.
But, we're not stupid, and we know that there are a decent amount of people playing elsewhere who still come here for our analysis. So we try to cater to them as well. For television purposes, I have only a minute on most shows, so you can get only so many names out in that time and you try to do a balance on "obvious names" and more obscure ones. For example, Matt Schaub strikes me as an obvious name, but I'm leading with him because, sure enough, he's available in that public league I am in and more than 50 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues, but you can't just ignore him.
Working for ESPN is super cool, of course, but because we reach so many players, you have to cater to those who play in all sorts of leagues, be they eight-team casual leagues or 16-team "men's" leagues, and everything in between.
Working the Wire
With all that said, here are some guys who are available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues and who have recently seen an increase in value. New format seemed to be well received last week, so once again, more rock, less talk. Or something like that.
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: He sure looked healthy Sunday, huh? Getting Andre Johnson back helps and this Sunday, he gets Cleveland and a Browns secondary that has given up more passing touchdowns than any other team this year.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: He's back. It's a real nice matchup this week against Buffalo, and he's averaged 15 fantasy points the past three weeks. He's not gonna explode, but he is very consistent, having had double-digit fantasy points in six of seven games.
Andre Hall, RB, Broncos: There are a few absolutes in this world. Death, taxes and never get involved in a land war in Asia. But right behind that, of course, is that any Denver running back has value. While we wait to see how Selvin Young bounces back, it's worth grabbing Hall, who had 89 yards on just seven touches Monday night, including an impressive 62-yard run. And yes, that is, more or less, a quote from my favorite movie of all time.
Anthony Thomas, RB, Bills: Most people ignored him because he was playing the Patriots and well, he's Anthony Thomas. But he's going to get another start and, while Jacksonville is not a good matchup either, he's going to get all the carries and could be a decent flex play in 12-team leagues. He's also available in a ton of leagues.
Derrick Ward and Reuben Droughns, RB, Giants: Remember when these guys were good? Well, one of them is most likely to get the start on Sunday. Now, they are playing Minnesota and even if Ward is healthy enough to go -- which isn't certain -- Droughns may vulture a touchdown, so it's not an ideal situation. But if you are desperate
Donald Lee, TE, Packers: Three touchdowns in two games. He's a top-10 fantasy tight end and, yes, still available in 45 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues. And he has two first names. Just saying.
Arizona Defense/Special Teams: I've mentioned them before but it's worth repeating. They've piled up 36 fantasy points the past two weeks and, this Sunday, are at home against Stephania Bell's terrible 49ers. That, my friends, is the textbook definition of fantasy goodness.
Nate Washington, WR, Steelers: Remember that Monday night game where Nate had two touchdowns against the Ravens? Guess who plays on Monday night again? And with Santonio Holmes banged up and possibly missing this game, you like Nate against Miami. Trust me. You really do.
Brad Smith, WR, Jets: Looks as though Laveranues Coles is gonna miss the Thanksgiving game, and you saw what Jason Campbell and Santana Moss did to the Cowboys, right? I expect a high-scoring affair as it's a short week and the Cowboys give up 22 fantasy points a game to opposing wide receivers.
From The Obvious Name Department
Here are some players who have seen a spike in value and may be available in shallower leagues or leagues where you play with morons.
Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks: He is back and, with both D.J. Hackett and Bobby Engram getting a lot of attention, Branch will see a lot of single coverage, which is good when you're starting for a team that will be throwing a lot.
Javon Walker, WR, Broncos: He's set to return this Sunday and if he was dropped in your league, go grab him. You can throw on Chicago. Which is who the Broncos play Sunday. See the logic there?
Ron Dayne, RB, Texans: 237 total yards the past two weeks. Gets Cleveland this Sunday. Not related to the not-nearly-as-hot-as-she-acted Taylor Dayne of cheesy '80s music fame. Pick a reason, any reason.
Kenny Watson, RB, Bengals: If I had to start a Bengals running back, this is the guy I'd want. He's clearly the more productive of the two and the Cincinnati schedule down the stretch is cake. If he was dropped when Rudi Johnson came back
Vince Young, QB, Titans: I stand by my assessment that he is not good, but you can't ignore a few things: He has 40 fantasy points in the past two weeks. He is playing the Bengals this week. The Bengals' defense is worse than Vince Young's offense.
Standing on the Sidelines
Here are some guys who should not be picked up except in deep leagues, but whom you should keep an eye on.
Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins: I don't believe, but then again, I've been wrong before. No, really, this one time, I said Adrian Peterson was in for a rough game, and he set the single-game NFL rushing record. No, really. Not sure if you'd heard. And this other time, with the Cincinnati D well, it wasn't pretty.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins: He's got skills, that's for sure. And he wasn't terrible last week, especially if you get special-teams points. I wouldn't touch him against the Steelers this week, but he's getting better every week.
Michael Pittman, RB, Buccaneers: Earnest Graham is in no danger of losing his job, but Pittman looked pretty solid last week in his return. Now, it was against Atlanta, so everyone looks decent, but still: 12 touches for 61 total yards. Not bad at all.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: One more guy who is back and played well, but you won't see that again this Sunday against Tampa Bay. (Expect to see this exact statement in Love/Hate this week as well.) That said, if he can stay healthy, the emergence of Jason Campbell only helps and he'll be solid in Weeks 13 and 14 against Buffalo and Chicago.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's Sr. Director of Fantasy, in charge of content. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner and the only writer in the industry with wins in multiple sports (NFL, MLB, NBA). Be sure to check him out every Sunday morning on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" at 11 a.m. ET.